When I specify my political views, I like to say “anarcho-socialist” because there’s a philosophy out there masquerading as “anarcho-capitalism” and I want to make sure everyone knows I am not that. I was, for a few years, but I’m adamantly not anymore. Because you see, by definition, if you are properly anarchist you cannot be capitalist.
Anarchism is against authority. Anarchism seeks to empower the people by abolishing hierarchy and allowing direct, participatory self-government. Capitalism doesn’t give a shit about people, and unregulated capitalism concentrates power (in the form of capital) in the hands of a few, rather than distributing it among all.
What so-called anarcho-capitalists want is an unregulated free market. They steal the term “anarchy” and apply it to their ideology because they naively assume that authority is only vested in government. Not so. People exercise authority over each other in many ways, and one of the primary ways they do so these days is through the structures of capitalism. Anarchism is historically a worker’s movement and therefore contains on a foundational level a radical critique of capitalism. The original worker-anarchists understood that the oppression they suffered under capitalism was as much (if not more) of a threat to their wellbeing as government was. So at the very least, it’s taking a giant shit all over these original anarchists when you try to make “anarcho-capitalism” a thing.
A monarch or even an elected representative normally does not have the best interests of the people at heart. Even the most well-intentioned government official is usually out of touch with the general mass of humanity and therefore incapable of making truly responsible choices in that office. A capitalist never has the best interests of the people at heart. At best, a capitalist can only argue that increased capital (the real point of capitalism) is in the long run the best for the people. Capitalism pursues profit, promising that the increase of profit will benefit the people, rather than ever asking the people what they actually need. Along the way, capitalism uses the people shamelessly to bring wealth to the managers and business-owners. All of capitalisms’ functions are keyed to increase profit for the business, at the expense of almost everyone actually working at that business. Thus, we see corporations nonsensically fighting against having to provide paid sick leave or health insurance for their employees. Nonsensically, I say, because a healthy worker is more likely to be happy and productive than an unhealthy worker. But in the logic of the corporation, money out of the company’s pocket that only contributes to the employees’ wellbeing is money ill spent. This situation is just one of many that proves capitalism does not give a flying fuck for the people. Increased societal wellbeing and standards of living is a byproduct, but along the way it results in increased misery and alienation for most people.
Anarcho-capitalism is even worse than our current system. In our current system, big businesses exert an undue amount of influence on the government in some horrifying ways, but at the end of the day the government is also used by the people to bring some check on capitalism. Imperfect as it is, the people do manage to reign in the capitalist beast just enough to check some of the more rampant abuses. Without legislators conveying the will of the people (however weakly) through regulation of capitalism, the free market would be free to use human beings as expendable fodder to grow their companies, just as they used to in the 1800’s when the labor movement and anarchism first gained traction. Therefore what anarcho-capitalism really wants to do is free capitalism from constraints imposed partially by the will of the people. Anarcho-capitalism is just capitalism without regulation, which means capitalism without any semblance of regard for people.
Anarcho-capitalists cannot call themselves radicals. They may engage in radical activities but at the end of the day they don’t truly want to change the system, they merely want to deregulate it. That’s why it’s so easy for people to call themselves libertarians or to join the Tea Party, because both are fundamentally conservative positions.
A truly radical, anarchist viewpoint will contain a substantive critique of all forms of power, domination, and hierarchy in society. It will not reinforce existing power structures, nor will it be a comfortable viewpoint for those who are disproportionately advantaged by the current system (I’ll fully admit that I am one such advantaged person and I am continually stretched and made uncomfortable as I explore the anarcho-socialist ideas I try to embrace). Anarcho-capitalism in either its pure form (read Ayn Rand if you want a full-on dosage of that bullshit) or its watered down forms (libertarianism, Tea Partyism, etc.) does nothing to change society. It’s just a bunch of advantaged people telling other advantaged people to stop regulating things. And if society’s wrongs are to be addressed, the last thing we need is one more elitist circle-jerk.